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Passed SCJP - Brutal Experience

Mark Gentzel

Joined: Jun 28, 2003
Posts: 5
My exam experience was a tough one. I haven't seen many exam testing centers, but after my experience I think I would pay a visit to any prospective testing locations before singing up if I had a choice of more than one near me.
My Exam Experience (yours should be much better):
I got a really good night's sleep the night before the test. But I woke up with a allergic/histamine reaction that I ocassionally experience since getting toxic shellfish poisoning last summer: I get swollen up and become somewhat dull-witted (perfect for the SCJP exam .
The temperature had soared all week and that day was another very hot one. I almost wore heavy clothing, thinking that the room where the exam is administered would be overly-air-conditioned to protect the computers - but I decided to wear shorts and a t-shirt at the last minute (and threw fleece and jeans in the trunk, just in case the room was freezing so I could change).
I took the test at Sierra Academy in Oakland, California, near the airport. This is an aeronautics school (allegedly one the 9/11 hijackers attended a course there). The experience was Kafkaesque to say the least.
First, it's next to the industrial/civilian part of Oakland Airport (you can hear planes starting, running, taking off, landing - all of the things that planes do, and mechanics do to them, can be heard).
Second, the testing room was NOT air-conditioned, and had no oen windows! It had to be at least 100 degrees in there (they had a single fan running in the corner). If you live in the San Francisco Bay area and are looking for a test site, I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS EXAM SITE.
Third, the computer set-ups were like hand-me-downs at a grade school and were all squished together so that you were practically elbow to elbow with other exam takers (I don't think many java folk take exams there - most people were taking aeronautics mechanical exams and the like). Sweat was dripping off my hand and onto the scratch paper I used to keep track of the obfuscated exam questions. I was not mentally sharp due to the whole toxic poison thing (I felt like I had been kicked in the head).
It was a brutal struggle to get through the test. I passed with 73%. I could have done better under different conditions, I'm sure, but I am thoroughly satisfied and ready to get on with my life
Thanks to Kathy Sierra for her encouragement, and to both Kathy and Bert for the excellent SCJP Exam prep book - it really is an excellent resource. It covers *almost* everything you need to know; I got two questions that involved object reference casting, which wasn't directly addressed in the book. I had some experience with this, and had also run across it in the Whizlabs mock exams in contexts where you needed to know which ones would compile vs. throwing runtime exceptions. I didn't give it as much attention as I should have since it wasn't covered in the Sierra/Bates book. I found the Whizlabs mock exams to be useful - but also had the impression that they covered much more material than was absolutely necessary for the exam. I found this to be a problem with most mock exams, and perhaps the most difficult aspect of preparing for the exam (i.e. knowing exactly what it is you are expected to know - you obviously aren't supposed to know *every* single nuance of the language - and Kathy and Bert's book is the best I've seen in this regard).
chi Lin
Ranch Hand

Joined: Aug 24, 2001
Posts: 348
Congratulations on the achievement, you are really a survivor, hat-off to this tough rancher !!!
Welcome to the SCJP pool & good luck in the future.

not so smart guy still curious to learn new stuff every now and then
Paul Anilprem
Enthuware Software Support
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Joined: Sep 23, 2000
Posts: 3635
Congratulations, Mark. I agree that having a comfortable exam center is very important. I always try to check out the center before scheduling an exam there. So less room for surprises. It's funny but I still got a surprise. I checked out the center on monday and sceduled the exam on Saturday. Somewhere in the middle of the week, those guys started some remodeling Too noisy.
But you got a very good score. Good Job. Please do post your mock exam scores on

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Mark Spritzler

Joined: Feb 05, 2001
Posts: 17276

Oakland, California, near the airport

That was the problem. I mean talk about a nice neighborhood.
Congrats Mark you are an SCJP now. I also heard that Sun actually increases your percentage by one point for each degree over 72 degrees. So congrats on your perfect score.

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Billy Tsai
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Joined: May 23, 2003
Posts: 1304
Passing SCJP is useless

BEA 8.1 Certified Administrator, IBM Certified Solution Developer For XML 1.1 and Related Technologies, SCJP, SCWCD, SCBCD, SCDJWS, SCJD, SCEA,
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Bert Bates

Joined: Oct 14, 2002
Posts: 8898
Mark -
Congrats, and thanks for using our book. Could you be a bit more specific about what we didn't cover - we'd like to make sure it's in the next edition!

Spot false dilemmas now, ask me how!
(If you're not on the edge, you're taking up too much room.)
Mark Gentzel

Joined: Jun 28, 2003
Posts: 5
Originally posted by Bert Bates:
Could you be a bit more specific about what we didn't cover - we'd like to make sure it's in the next edition!

Yes I will get some more specific info to you.
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2008
Posts: 18944
Good job, Mark. Congratulations!
(Don't worry about the score, you've done great despite the not so exam-friendly conditions you described taking the exam in.)
Ranch Hand

Joined: Nov 22, 2008
Posts: 18944
Originally posted by Billy Tsai:
Passing SCJP is useless

So is passsing any other (certification) exam...if not backed by knowledge, experience, confidence, etc.
Mark Gentzel

Joined: Jun 28, 2003
Posts: 5
Originally posted by Bert Bates:
Could you be a bit more specific about what we didn't cover - we'd like to make sure it's in the next edition!

Without giving away actual test questions I've tried to recreate the subject matter in a few examples below. The topic that I was referring to is Class casting or Object casting (using a class cast on an existing object reference or when instantiating a new object).
There were two questions I had to answer that used class casting. One of them I clearly remember, the other I remember only that it used syntax and structure that was quite similar to something I had seen in a mock exam (I was in a bit of a mental fog that day or I would have better recall . I spent a lot of time reading your book, and even wrote up an extensive study guide for myself to make sure I hadn't skipped any topics. Perhaps I overlooked something, but this topic does not seem to be covered. I also reviewed the exam objectives, and the way that this subject matter was presented doesn't fall neatly into just one objective (it fits most clearly into section 6 and Object Orientation obviously, but also section 5 and applying assignment operators to any class scope may apply as well).
I'll start with the second, less memorable, type topic. Whizlabs has a series of questions that ask specifically about using class cast statements on a superclass and two direct sublasses that are analogous to the following example:
class Dad{}
class Brother extends Dad{}
class Sister extends Dad{}
class WhoIsWho{
public static void main(String[] args){
Dad d = new Dad();
Brother bro = new Brother();
Sister sis = new Sister();
/* Each of 3 mock exam questions would contain this type of class hierarchy and object instantiation, with one of the lines below, and a question asking you to analyze four statements about the code (i.e. compiles and runs, compiles and throws exception, etc.)
// example 1. compiles and runs without Exception
Dad d2 = (Dad) bro;
// example 2. Will compile, throws ClassCastException at runtime
Sister sis2 = (Sister) d;
// example 3. Will not compile
Brother bro2 = (Brother) sis;
Example 1 above is fairly obvious and clearly follows OO rules that are covered by Chapter 5, however, since class casting does not seem to be directly addressed it may leave some doubt in reader's minds. Example 3 above also seems fairly obvious if one considers basic OO rules. Example 2 is where the real confusion may start. Chapter 5 has an excellent discussion of the issues surrounding Reference variable type vs. object type in cases where you have a compound reference/object type assignment scenario and such an object is used in overloaded and overridden methods (and the topic of dynamic method invocation regarding this subject is also given some attention). There are also many cases where the book specifically addresses and stresses the issue of primitive type casting. What seemed to be lacking was a clear (if however brief) addressing of the issue of class casts. While I could memorize the scenario above with regard to class casting of superclasses, subclasses, and siblings, I'm not sure I fully understand the principles that underlie the question of why the compiler/JVM treats class casting in this way.
The second example deals with the same topic, although in retrospect I believe that the question wasn't specifically asking about this subject matter. However, my uncertainty about some aspects of class casting (also referred to as conversion in some documents I've seen) led me to wonder about whether the code would compile vs. throw a RuntimeException. This example recreates the subject matter without revealing the actual question. It also contains a few tests that I performed to clarify what was going on. The code in the first section represents what code needs to be analyzed to answer the question about what the output would be, and the choice of compile error vs. RuntimeException must be made:
class ObjectCasting2{
public static void main(String[] args) {
// Example: illustrates the nature of the topic
String twine = new String("twine");
Object rope = (Object) twine;
System.out.println( twine.equals(rope) + " " + rope.equals(twine) );

// testing class hierarchy of Example:
System.out.println( (rope instanceof Object) + " " + (twine instanceof Object) );
System.out.println( (rope instanceof String) + " " + (twine instanceof String) );

/* More testing: direct reference variable assignment of rope2 has more or less the same effect as the cast in assignment of rope above
Object rope2 = new String("twine");
System.out.println(twine.equals(rope2)+ " " + rope2.equals(twine));

There are a few topics wrapped up here: overriding, particularly as it applies to the equals method in Object vs. String; class hierarchy and polymorphism; and aspects of the nature of String objects. All of these are topics I was fairly comfortable with. What threw me was the class cast. The reason it threw me is that even though I've used class casts, for the reasons discussed in the first example above, I now found myself wondering if there wasn't a hidden complexity lurking here related to the cast itself. In both the examples above, taking a few moments to write and test some code helped clarify the issue, but in the exam, this kind of nagging little question takes on ridiculous proportions that outweigh it's overall significance. (I think I actual answered the second question correctly anyway).
I hope this is helpful. Again, just to be clear, the book is a great resource. I started preparing for the cert exam last summer, but then stopped when I realized that a new exam was being introduced. I started preparing again in late April. Prior to this book, I had looked at a number of preparation materials and this really was the first one that inspired real confidence (not in using the Java language itself, but confidence in knowing what would be expected in the exam).
Thanks again,
I agree. Here's the link:
subject: Passed SCJP - Brutal Experience
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